Lines of research

The Mirror Research Chair centers its research around the following areas

  • comparative private law
  • civil liability law
  • human rights
  • artificial intelligence
The holders of the Mirror Research Chair are both responsible for the lines of research pursued by the Chair, driven by the desire to promote comparative private law.

“Comparative law, drawing on the experience of all nations, enlightens jurists on the role and meaning of law.”
René David
“Comparative law is the art of "living together".”
H. Patrick Glenn

AXIS 1 - Fundamental research: legal qualification of a non-human entity


The legal qualification of a non-human entity is critical. How then should we qualify robots, connected objects or even autonomous vehicles and machines, these “ULO: Unidentified Legal Objects”?

Like the legal situation of the corpse, or even of the animal, which reveals an oscillation between a "subject" and an "object", the legal status of non-human entities calls for reflections which do not 'adopt a Manichean vision, but rather to shatter the hermeticism of legal categories. In fact, the fundamental presupposition, for the legal tradition, lies in the split between being and having. This heritage, bequeathed by Roman law, still serves today as a framework for the construction of the Civil Code of Quebec and the French Civil Code: that which divides the legal world in people and things.

Admittedly, the summa divisio which private law operates between things and persons is at fault and cannot suffice for a coherent legal treatment of non-human entities. Rather than questioning the capacity of traditional legal categories to understand the status of non-human entities, or even the irreversibility of the spectrum of such categories, it is a question of gauging the need to design a hybrid or intermediate category reflecting their complex status.

By extension, the advantages and the abuses of artificial intelligence must be investigated when this discipline is confronted with fundamental human rights (right to privacy and reputation, in particular) and to their relations with others. One only has to think of the persistence of a digital person thanks to an artificial intelligence keeping his data after the death of the person, thus transcending death, like the cryopreservation of bodies, which calls into question the space-time proper to humanity.

AXIS 2 - Applied and collaborative research: civil liability of a non-human entity


Civil liability has changed during the various industrial revolutions experienced by our societies. The development of machinery and new technologies at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century radically changed its face, leading to the substitution of traditional fault-based liability with liability based on the idea of ​​risk and guarantee. Many special liability regimes have also emerged to respond to specific harmful situations, in particular in the context of mass damage (including traffic accidents, for example).

The revolution that we are experiencing today, due to the development of artificial intelligence, appears to have no comparison in the history of mankind. The algorithms will continue their process of sophistication by impacting the relationships of individuals with each other, but also of individuals with ever more sophisticated machines. As Cassuto has pointed out, "the implementation of artificial intelligence throws us into an unpredictable future, not due to man but machine" (Law and Artificial Intelligence, The automation of instruments in the fields of transport, health and energy requires a legal framework in all the hypotheses where artificial intelligence will be a source of damage. However, it cannot be expected to relieve artificial intelligence of all responsibility on the grounds that it is autonomous and sometimes completely independent of human will. This research therefore intends to identify the various possible harmful situations in order to measure whether the current rules in force in our countries appear to be adapted to the management of new risks.

So, to take an example in the field of transport, what about damage caused by an autonomous system driven by artificial intelligence? It will be necessary to distinguish between the person who created the object, the person who will have integrated the artificial intelligence system (a car manufacturer, a drone designer ...), the person who will have designed and / or updated the intelligence system artificial pilot of the object and finally the person in the service of which the object functions (the owner or the user of the vehicle), it being understood that the user may be able to deactivate the system to regain control of it. This example allows us to take stock of all the questions that arise in terms of responsibility.

To carry out these reflections, the holders of the Chair have chosen to create a dialogue with industrialists and researchers / engineers. As such, the Renault Trucks company - a company belonging to the Swedish group AB VOLVO has been taken over - has already given its agreement in principle to collaborate with the members of the project on this subject. Today, this group belongs to a competitiveness cluster (named CARA - European Cluster for Mobility Solutions) which has been classified since 2012 in the category of "high performance" clusters and, since 2014, labeled "Gold Label" by the European Cluster Excellence Initiative. Such a partner will lead to focusing the problem of artificial intelligence more precisely on autonomous vehicles and more.
In addition, a dialogue will be initiated with the Chambre des notaires du Québec to discuss the dematerialized person when confronted with the notarial technological act. Acknowledging the technological age, the project recognizes the existence of the 2.0 notary and the digital transformation of the profession. Rather, a notary positions themselves in an understanding, even anticipation, of the role of the notary to respond to the concerns expressed by his client, in his dematerialized person, when confronted with the technological notarial act. The digital environment here operates a renewed consideration of the identity and capacity of the customer, but also of his heritage. Moreover, the advent of a new "digital vulnerability" demands timely treatment.

It will be understood that the objectives of this research are both theoretical and practical. They are theoretical in that they lie in identifying and solving legal problems that artificial intelligence might pose. They are practical in that the project will be carried out in close cooperation with actors in the field who will give the work a concrete impact. The approach thus seems innovative and unprecedented in view of the existing works.